Mead You Look: Western Reserve Meadery

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I've never been much of a wine person. My mom, she loves a glass (or two) of red wine to top off the day, but I've never really enjoyed it. Sure, I'll have a glass if I'm with a group of people who order a bottle at dinner, or something, but it's never my go-to. I never, like, want wine.

The one time I had wine I loved was in Israel. Our tour guy, Guy, was friends with the owners of a winery, they called it, though they didn't have any grapes; none of the wine was grape wine. Instead, it was all made with honey & other fruits - & they tasted incredible. I later learned that it wasn't really wine at all; it was mead, but maybe the Israelis didn't have the word for it?

Remembering the tastes of that trip, I was thrilled to see that a meadery has opened right here in my neighborhood. Western Reserve Meadery is a small, locally owned operation located on Duck Island, the border of Cleveland's Tremont & Ohio City neighborhoods. One night in May, Mike & some friends & I were checking out Forest City Brewery when we realized the meadery was in the same building. Should we check it out? We should check it out.

What we found was a small, brightly lit space done all in smooth, shining wood - the handiwork, it turns out, of one of the owners, who does woodworking on the side. Talk about cool hobbies! We ended up speaking with him for about an hour, & he even showed us the backroom where the mead is made.

We also tried the mead, of course, & let me tell you: That shit is delicious. Their flavors change regularly, but here's what we tried:
  • Hefe-Mel: Honeyed with a a light banana/clove flavor - yum. They actually serve this one on tap in the tasting room.
  • Spiced Cranberry Blossom Mead: This sweet mead has a little bit of a kick to it.
  • Medjool Date Melomel: This is the one I was most excited about, though it was more savory than expected. 
  • Strawberry Basil Mead: This flavor is tart & refreshing, as expected. So summery.
  • Buckwheat Blossom Honey Cherry: This tart flavor is the one we bought a full bottle of, & it didn't last long once it got home. It's also 16.5% ABV.
Yeah, we were a liiiittle tipsy by the time we left.

Western Reserve Meadery's tasting room is open Wednesday through Friday from 4-10pm, & Saturdays from noon to 10pm. They offer samples of their meads for $2, or full glasses for $5. Their products are also sold in two other local spots: Cap & CorksRoss Beverage, both in Lakewood, & I've recently found them at the Tremont Farmers Market, too. While we were visiting, I tried desperately to think of someone we needed to buy a gift for because this would be perfect to take to a dinner party or something!

Bottom line: We loved Western Reserve Meadery & their mead, & it's a great addition to the area. If you like beer or wine or both, you're likely to find a mead that suits for fancy, too. L'chaim!

It's Really, Really, Really Freaking Important That You Call Your Senators This Week

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I shared an Ohio-centric version of this post on Facebook today, but it felt too important not to share as broadly as possible.

Have you called your senators to ask them to vote no on the GOP health care bill? 

Call your senators' offices now! Thank your Democratic senator for opposing the American Health Care Act , & ask/urge/plead with/beg your Republican senator to vote no on this harmful piece of legislation that would jeopardize the lives of millions of Americans.
You can find the phone number for your senators' D.C. office here (& if you're an Ohioan like me, you can call Senator Rob Portman's D.C. office at 202-224-3353). When you call, be sure to say your name & your city; clearly state your opposition to the bill & ask him or her to vote no, for the well-being of residents of your state & for all Americans.

Never done this before or feeling scared? Call after hours (like today!) & you'll get an answering machine instead of a real person. Your opinion will still be heard & documented by members of the senator's staff. Don't let phone anxiety prevent you from calling!

Here are a few quick facts about the AHCA, which you are welcome to quote in your call... or share with every single goddamn person you know because, in the words of American hero Gwen Stefani, "This shit is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S."
  • "The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the AHCA would cause 23 million people to lose insurance by 2026, according to The New York Times."*
  • "Insurers would be allowed to apply for a waiver to opt out of covering essential health benefits in order to charge higher rates for those with preexisting conditions - something that 70 percent of Americans oppose, according to a survey conducted by Langer Research Associates."* 
  • "A poll from Quinnipiac University found that 62 percent of Americans disapprove of the Republican’s bill, while 66 percent are unhappy with President Donald Trump’s handling of the nation’s health care.*
Let's let Republicans know that we mean it this time: They can't mess with our health, with our wellness, with our lives. Their jobs are at stakes.

This is a critical time. Please don't just stand by & watch.

How to Make It Through a Tough Week

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I haven't been having a very good week. Actually, I've been having a really bad week. It seems like, today, it's starting to turn around - but I'm always wary of saying so lest things actually get worse.

But I'm trying to work on changing my perspective, finding the good within the bad. It's surprisingly helpful, actually, & it makes me feel grateful even when I'm feeling down.

For example...

I've had a couple of really difficult days at work that I won't go into here, but at least I have a job I love that pays all the bills. Fortunately, bad days/problems there are few & far between, so when they do arise, they're at least a little bit easier to swallow.

All I wanted to do last night was crawl into bed early, but I had to clean our place because company is coming. Now, though, my home is clean, & tonight, we'll welcome two of my very best friends into town as they pass through on their way to Chicago.

I've been really low on cash lately because I'm paying off my credit card debt while trying not to go back into debt - but at least that means that, at some point, I'll be able to say I'm debt-free, & my paychecks will go right to me, not to my bills.

I feel wayyy behind on wedding planning (check out my last update), but I know it'll all fall into place by the big day. I mean, it has to, right? And when that time comes, I'll walk away married to my best friend, which is all I really need or want.

My weight is at an all-time high, which I don't feel good about, especially in the lead-up to said wedding, but I'm still mobile, capable, & strong. I've been doing workout videos, trying to move more, cutting carbs, etc., & most importantly, reassuring myself that I have value no matter how I look or how much I weigh.

For all these reasons & more, I've been struggling with depression & anxiety again, largely in the form of low self-esteem & a lack of confidence, which is a really weird thing to experience at 32 - but I am taking my medicine, practicing self-care, learning on my support system, & trying my best to take care of myself.

I'm reminded that mental illness is a lifelong struggle - that just because I overcame it once doesn't mean I'm not susceptible to it again or that life is not a happily-ever-after. But I know how to cope now, & I will not be taken under by my lows. I am so much more than my bad days, & a bad day or a bad week does not a bad life make.

And here's a small list of additional good things, because I find that writing them out helps me to appreciate them more:
  1. It was roasted red pepper soup day at my favorite coffee shop.
  2. My favorite barista introduced me to toddy, a super-strong iced coffee.
  3. I bought a bright green, patterned shirt yesterday that I love.
  4. Today is the summer solstice, but it's sunny, breezy, & not too hot.
  5. I'm rereading a very chill, readable YA series from my childhood.
  6. The cats have been super-extra-cuddly since we returned from a weekend trip.
  7. I'm meeting a new blog friend for tacos tomorrow night.
  8. I bought a bottle of my favorite mead at yesterday's farmer's market.
  9. I found an inspirational rock outside today?
Hey. Sometimes it's the littlest things.

Good luck gettin' through the week, friends.

Rooms to Let: An Incredible Art Installation in the Unlikeliest of Places

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A couple weekends ago, Mike & some of our friends & I drove over to Slavic Village, where I'd never been, for an innovative, larger-than-life art installation called Rooms to Let. Supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Rooms to Let is an annual project that transforms vacant houses & empty lots into massive works of art featuring works by dozens of local artists of varying styles.

We got there late in the day, so we only made it through three of the four houses. Luckily, two of them were located on the same lot. Unfortunately, the time frame meant we had to speed through a lot of the exhibits, & I'm sure I missed a ton of really cool stuff. I could've stayed in these houses all day, if I'd been by myself; as it was, I was the last one of our group out of all three of the houses we visited. Oops!

I'm no photographer, but here's a look at some of the best of the day. I couldn't let this amazing exhibit go undocumented - but as you look at these photos, imagine that it was all, like, 10 times more beautiful & fascinating than what you see here, OK? OK. Let's go.

We weren't sure what to expect, but the first room we walked into was covered in absolutely gorgeous, colorful paintings of nude women with modern, feminist, activist messaging woven throughout. It was hard to believe they were painted on the walls of abandoned building, places that someone once called home. 

This candy-colored room felt especially unsettling, somehow. The bright, saturated colors against the backdrop of a peeling, other-wise-falling-apart room... well, it was plain old spooky. Look how pretty & shiny & new these colors are - & then look at the crumbling building falling down around them.

Some of the rooms were reminiscent of the outdoors, with trees & even waterfalls brought inside. I'm not artistic enough to, you know, quite get it - but it was really cool to see a fake creek running through an abandoned stairwell & a roomful of trees growing through the walls.

Some of it was interactive, inviting visitors to take part by writing on the walls or knocking down blocks or playing music or, in one case, even sweeping the floors. In another room, a woman with a white-painted face & body sat at a desk, legs up, gum popping, as she flicked little pieces of paper across the room & refused to engage with any of her viewers.

One of the coolest rooms, though not exactly art in the traditional sense, was the "Selfie Pink-Ghost-Room," its name hastily scrawled on a plywood door. We made our way into a dark basement... filled with fake fog, pink lights, & a blank photo backdrop for... selfies, of course. It was a little too crowded down there for us to snag a good one, but it was still a cool place to explore.

My favorite room, in a really painful way, was the Donald Trump room, a child's playroom with not-so-subtle messaging about the danger of the impact of our fine president's words on young, impressionable girls & women. I kept hearing people peek their heads into the room & exclaim, "Look how cute it is!" - totally missing the point, like half this country, I guess.

That certainly wasn't the only politically minded display, though most were slightly more subtle. A number of the displays focused on housing issues - meta, yes, but important, too, especially given the setting of the exhibits.

And some of the exhibits hearkened back to Slavic Village's homeowners of ages past. In one room, the artist herself was actually present, chatting with visitors & explaining that the tchotchkes that peppered her work came from a home in the area that a friend of hers had recently purchased - photos & paperwork & recipes & all kinds of things that told the stories of the family that once lived there.

And some of it felt angry & broken, a reminder that this artwork came at the expense of a once-vibrant neighborhood's lifeblood. I was surprised, frankly, that more of it didn't feel angry... & I wondered how some of the neighbors felt, the ones living next door to these dilapidated-but-now-beautiful homes-turned-canvases - the ones still living in dilapidated homes themselves.

There were also some really incredible pieces of straight-up, traditional artwork in the "I want to hang that on my wall at home" sense. It was sort of depressing to think of all of this beautiful art being demolished along with the walls that hold them - but I guess that was sort of the point. Art is ephemeral. Stability is ephemeral. Life is ephemeral.

 And some of it just felt like art, period - weird & pretty & strange & inspirational & confusing & what-the-hell-ever else. There was literally a bathroom covered floor-to-ceiling in hair. Art, man.

The artwork continued outside, too, with performance art in the backyard, neon & metallic paint on much of the foliage, & murals being painted in real-time in vacant lots - not to mention this clown-covered couch hanging by a thread out of one of the windows. Yikes.

I have to confess: As much as I loved the artwork, something about Rooms to Let left me deeply unsettled. It is uncomfortably voyeuristic - not to mention classist - to visit a down-&-out neighborhood to see beautiful works of art in spaces that are tangible representations of economic downturn & poverty.

I appreciate what the folks behind Rooms to Let folks are trying to do, & I of course appreciate all the incredible art itself - but in practice, well... it just didn't feel good. People live in Slavic Village, people struggle in Slavic Village, people in Slavic Village are trying to make ends meet & better their community. They're not an exhibit.

Part of the lead-up to Rooms to Let included a fix-a-thon & a community clean-up project, but... well. It doesn't change what's happening in Slavic Village, in so much of Cleveland, or around the country. It doesn't change what economic inequality looks like - or feels like, for the people living it. Here are a few ways to support organizations doing work to correct economic inequality.

Overall, Rooms to Let was an incredible experience, some of the coolest & craziest art I've ever seen. Even though it made me uncomfortable in a number of ways - & was, probably, supposed to - I love that Cleveland artists & activists are taking on interesting & creative ways to try to bring attention to what's going on in our city, to bring something beautiful to something downtrodden, & to inspire creativity in Clevelanders.

Where can I find more great art in this city? Let me know in the comments!

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